Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Engaging the Inertial Dampeners

I have come to the conclusion that inertia is the strongest force in the universe--at least, in my universe.  Once I start doing something, my tendency is to keep doing it until acted upon by a countering force. To wit: once I got into the habit of writing on a frequent basis, and I kept on at it, somehow finding the time to get an essay or two or three a week posted on this or another blog.

Sometime in the last year or so, however, the forward flow was slowly counteracted by forces that seemed to be beyond my control.  My students are, for example, becoming more and more academically needy from lack of appropriate training, and much more difficult to engage.  I'm probably getting grumpier and more boring from lack of interest in the more time-consuming aspects of social media (still no Facebook, although I did sign up for Google Plus, visited infrequently) and even less interest in most popular culture.  I cannot, for example, even begin to understand the zombie thing.

The result of the change in inertial direction has meant fewer and fewer blog posts.  This is probably not a bad thing, because even I got tired of hearing myself grouse all the time about the sorry state of the galaxy.  Nevertheless, the Beloved Spouse and I have recently managed to get off our saggy duffs and begin something we've been needing to do since we bought our little house on the Texas prairie: renovate our sadly neglected bungalow.  It's about rutting time, since the poor thing turns 90 this year.  We kept thinking we'd do it ourselves, but never did.  And now I know why.

Mind you, we were spurred into action by a series of unfortunate events (what I now think of as an example of an inertial dampener--or, as some Trek buffs like to say, "damper").  Designed to keep spacegoers from slamming into the walls when a ship drops out of warp, these nifty devices compensate for the inertia that speeds the Enterprise and the rest of the Fleet through space.   In our more earth-bound sense, it refers to the proverbial kick in the arse that gets things moving.

The Kelmscott-Manor lookalike next door recently sold (finally, after well over a year on the market for about a half a million; I think it fetched around 400K) to a lady with cocker spaniels who clearly didn't want our mangy little bungalow to mar her privacy or her view.  So she put up a six-and-a-half foot wooden privacy fence that runs from the back of both properties to about where our front porch begins.  Suddenly, instead of the lovely twin gables and rose garden, we were faced with the ass-end of a fence, metal support posts included. 

On the plus side, we don't have to look at the bad concrete-step replacement with its adjacent concrete lions (the BS and I belong to neither the Cult of the Concrete Animals or the Cult of the Bronze Children, both of which seem to be rapidly gaining adherents in town).  It also cuts down the air flow and toasts our side yard in the afternoon. 

Instead of bitching and wingeing, however, we squeezed the lemons out, added limoncello and ice, and got the same fence company to build us a craftsman style four-foot spaced picket fence with a pergola and gate, and we're getting rid of the old wire fence that demarcated the back yard; the puppies are going to be ecstatic because they'll be able to get much closer to the terrifying babies and strollers and neighborhood dogs that Woody and Arlo are jointly convinced are out to get us.

The fence, in the end, was what finally got us serious about the renovations.  Thanks to a very nice re-do across the street, we found a contractor without the help of Angie's List (from which I'm going to resign shortly; we apparently don't like the same things that everybody else likes), and his crew is already at work prepping the house for painting, re-roofing, re-siding, re-glazing on the exterior.

Before I close out this rather long-winded account, I'd like to mention the sweet man who drove by the house a few weeks ago, with the improbable (but appropriate) name of Charlie Angel.  He had  been driving by occasionally, hoping someone would be out so he could stop and ask about the house he'd been born in--not brought to at birth, but born in!  He'd lived here as a child until his parents built another bungalow a few blocks away, but he had a child's happy memories of the place, which apparently hasn't changed all that much.  After a tour of the house (which was embarrassingly messy, but he didn't seem to see the dust and clutter) he left, a happy man, and we promised to have him back after the renovation is finished.

It's funny how this encounter reinforced my very conservative approach to restoring historical spaces.  The house may well end up looking even more like it did when Charlie was a little boy. For one thing, no granite is going in. Anywhere.  We're not even putting in air conditioning (that's a later project, because what we are doing has already taken up the budget).  Most of what's happening is conservation rather than renovation, with the idea of making the place more livable in case we get stuck in Texas for the rest of our lives.  The Beloved Spouse had already taken the summer off from teaching, and has begun the onerous task of clearing out the garage, carting stuff to the tip, arranging for "big trash" pick-up, and financing for the repairs.  So even though my tiny little holiday (two weeks) began on Monday, he'll be able to supervise the work over the summer and all I have to do post commentary on the progress of our new inertial direction.

Image notes: the photo is one I took this week, with the house in mid-prep (the construction debris trailer can be seen at left). The shot was taken with the Nikon D80.